When it comes to the health and safety of our employees, we take our responsibility very seriously, doing everything we possibly can to safeguard them against both accidents and work-related illnesses. By focusing on stress prevention, nutrition and exercise, we help our employees avoid acute or chronic health problems through preventive measures that are easy to integrate into their daily work routine.
Our approach to preventing accidents and promoting health
We seek to promote the health of our employees and maintain their ability to perform over the long term, which necessitates a safe workplace. One of our Group-wide objectives is therefore to step up our safety culture, with our goal for 2020 being to keep our lost time injury rate (LTIR) under 1.5. At all our sites, we conduct hazard assessments even before a new plant is commissioned to minimize or eliminate any potential safety risks to our employees. Existing facilities are supposed to undergo a review every five years, which is the responsibility of the local EHS managers. Random checks are performed to ensure that the reviews are conducted at the stipulated intervals. Furthermore, we have the risk situation reassessed after any changes are made to a plant. Moreover, we are working to make workplace health management a greater part of our company and leadership culture.
Over the last two years, we have developed a key performance indicator management system to review the efficacy of our Health Management practices. 2018 was the first time we included questions regarding employee health in our worldwide, anonymous Employee Engagement survey. In the long run, we intend to use the input to calculate our Healthiness Index, which should reflect the general state of health of our workforce. We currently have the initial results from the areas of health and work-life balance, which are being utilized to devise suitable measures to boost the health of our employees and help them better reconcile their personal and professional lives.
We align our health initiatives with the needs of our workforce. In 2019, we defined our objectives for the next several years, creating a roadmap that will focus on shift work, mental stress, demographic change, and the analysis of key disease occurrence information in order to take the appropriate actions. We regularly evaluate the success of our efforts. In 2019, for instance, we analyzed the results of our Weight Watchers At Work for Shift Workers program along with the expanded deployment of our mobile gym buses. The results of our company health insurance fund’s health report have been available since mid-2019, and we are using these to advise our leadership on the health situation in their respective units. This report is published every two years.
To make mental health an integral part of our organization, we furthermore founded an interdisciplinary Mental Health Team in 2019, which is tasked with creating and ensuring a work environment that puts our employees at ease and safeguards them as far as possible from mental stress. Serving as strategic partners and experts, the Mental Health Team offers our workforce interdisciplinary support from a single source.
How we manage occupational health and safety
Our Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) management system is the responsibility of our Group Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) function, which reports to Executive Board member Belén Garijo. EQ sets objectives, globally oversees initiatives, and conducts internal EHS audits, while local EHS managers ensure that each individual site complies with occupational safety laws and regulations. All new EHS managers are required to complete EHStart-up!, a three-day orientation held at our global headquarters in Darmstadt. This seminar covers topics such as occupational health and safety as well as our BeSafe! safety culture program.
We collect workplace accident data from our sites on a monthly basis. Every facility is required to immediately report relevant accidents to EQ, where the cases are investigated and assessed. If necessary, we implement additional safety measures at our sites. This procedure is an integral practice at all of our production facilities around the world. In addition, our German sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim have an occupational safety committee in place that meets four times a year and makes decisions on current EHS issues.
We involve our employees at the organizational level in occupational health and safety efforts, for instance during joint inspections or in the selection of personal protective gear. This approach is crucial because our people best understand the actual work situation and what is needed. We take this input and develop further ways to improve occupational health and safety. If employees are worried about their health or safety, they are encouraged to use our global SpeakUp Line and are also allowed to temporarily step back from their work until the issue has been resolved.
At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, our Health Management unit helps weave health awareness into our company culture. The appropriate strategy, individual focal areas and steps required are developed by an interdisciplinary steering committee consisting of various senior leaders such as the head of Occupational Health & Safety, the chairman of the Works Council, the head of Health Management, and the production heads of our business sectors. Meeting six times a year, the committee discusses topics such as workplace health fundamentals, good leadership and tailored health programs.
Across our sites worldwide, our EHS managers help organize and evolve EHS practices. In Tokyo (Japan), for instance, we have implemented special anti-stress programs to promote employee mental health. In Taiwan, an array of exercise programs has been organized under the banner of “Enrich your health deposit”. Our site in Gillingham (United Kingdom) has a program in place that encourages its employees to ride their bike to work and do something positive for their health. In supporting these efforts, we seek to promote and maintain the physical and mental well-being of our workforce.
On top of their usual tasks, some of our production employees at our sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim are also responsible for health matters. After completing a training course, these health partners act as a liaison between our employees and Health Management, providing a channel through which employees can voice their ideas and suggestions for workplace health management practices. Since our production employees have shown great appreciation for the dedication of these first health partners, we have decided to start introducing this practice in other departments as well. In 2019, we added health partners to three administrative units and two laboratory units. As of the end of 2019, there were a total of 66 health partners at the Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites.
Our Health Management unit asks all participants to submit anonymous opinions and suggestions for each of the measures implemented, which help shape the evolution and growth of these initiatives.
Integration of Versum Materials and Intermolecular
In the course of integrating the companies Versum Materials and Intermolecular, we are examining their existing management structures, policies, standards, and processes for occupational health and safety. Where necessary, we are implementing our internal Group-wide principles. We are furthermore reviewing their current process for tracking occupational health and safety performance indicators and are working to harmonize methodologies and timelines. Starting in 2020, we will be incorporating occupational health and safety indicators for Versum Materials and Intermolecular into our reporting.
Our commitment: Policies and works agreements
Our approach to occupational health and safety is detailed in our Group Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Policy. This is an integral part of our EHS management system, which undergoes an external OHSAS 18001 audit every year.
Our Group Health Policy defines how we ensure workplace safety for our employees while also promoting their health and well-being. This document details our Group-wide approach to safety and health management as well as our comprehensive behavioral modification program to prevent workplace accidents and occupational diseases. One component of the policy is our Global Wellbeing and Health Promotion Framework, which describes the differing requirements in a wide array of countries. Our individual sites are responsible for performing local workplace risk assessments and hazard analyses. In 2019, we implemented our internal Group Procedure Lab Safety standard, which describes the measures to be taken to safeguard the health of lab employees and to minimize the environmental burden of lab operations. Moreover, in 2019 we revised our EHS Compliance for Contractor Management standard, thereby integrating our contractors into our occupational health and safety efforts, in line with the latest findings and in compliance with our Group-wide regulations.
At most of our sites in Germany, we work in partnership with employee representatives to draft comprehensive works agreements on occupational health and safety. Introduced in 2017, for instance, our Occupational Integration Management works agreement governs the procedure for employees who have been on extended sick leave. Occupational Integration Management applies to all our sites in Germany. This works agreement is designed to retain an employee’s position while also helping to prevent adverse health impacts after the respective employee returns to work.
Safety certification renewed
Our occupational health and safety management system is currently OHSAS 18001 certified at 31 of our sites. At 30 of these sites, 100% of employees are covered by a certified occupational safety management system. At our global headquarters in Darmstadt, the OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety standard applies to around 70% of employees; the occupational health and safety of the remaining 30% of Darmstadt employees, who do not work in operating units, is safeguarded by the Merck Management System. The certification process helps us pinpoint weak areas, identify opportunities for improvement and take suitable measures. Other sites are also required to apply this standard.
The lost time injury rate (LTIR) is the indicator used to assess the success of our safety efforts. This figure is a global measure of the number of accidents resulting in at least one day of missed work per one million man-hours. We track the LTIR for both employees and temporary staff. Having achieved the target we set in 2010 for a 2.5 LTIR, in 2015 we set a new ambitious goal of permanently lowering this figure to 1.5 by 2020. After all, we believe that nothing is worth an accident. In 2019, our LTIR was 1.5. The majority of incidents resulting in lost time were slips, trips and falls, along with contusions and lacerations from the operation of machinery and equipment. In 2019, we recorded no fatal accidents.
Generally, our sites are not endangered by hazards that could potentially cause severe injuries or have serious health consequences. This is because as a rule, before starting any activity worldwide, we perform a hazard assessment. In conducting this analysis, we identify hazards and have them eliminated before commencing a project or commissioning a plant. If this is not possible, we put measures in place to minimize the potential impacts as far as possible.
Clear rules of conduct
Experience shows that most workplace accidents can be prevented by proper conduct. Through our BeSafe! safety culture initiative, we are raising employee awareness of the dangers in the workplace and providing them with appropriate safety behavior rules. All relevant production and warehouse sites have now been incorporated into the program. In 2020, the remaining administrative and research & development facilities will be integrated into the program in the course of upcoming EHS audits.
In 2019, we conducted awareness campaigns at various sites as part of our BeSafe! program in a bid to further bolster our safety culture. For instance, we increased employee awareness by means of a safety video that forms part of our BeSafe! training and is also available on our intranet. In 2019, we created Italian, Korean and Portuguese versions of the video in an effort to reach more of our employees in their local language, bringing the total up to nine languages. In addition, several subsidiaries again held safety competitions. Furthermore, we conducted two refresher courses on key content from our BeSafe! program, as well as occupational safety training in many countries in accordance with the statutory requirements and specific risks of each country.
Our Health Management unit
At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, our Health Management unit conducts an array of campaigns and programs to promote the health of our workforce. These activities are based on health indicators derived from sources such as the health report issued by our company health insurance fund, evaluations from our Site Medical Center and, since 2018, our employee survey. We utilize the findings in the creation of prevention programs tailored to specific target groups or facilities. Moreover, our Health Management unit offers specific health initiatives such as mindfulness courses and workplace ergonomics consultation. Along these lines, we have a standard procedure in place for continuously assessing the working conditions and environment, making state-of-the-art updates wherever needed. If other sites express interest, our Health Management unit will advise on potential improvements or health programs. When requested, we also provide local consultation and run campaigns by means of an internal service contract.
Our employees have access to a health catalog detailing our Health Management services in both English and German that contains information on ergonomics, nutrition, stress, and mental health issues.
Fit@Merck fitness program
Throughout Germany, we offer our employees services such as our Fit@Merck program, which provides them with a subsidy of up to € 195 per year towards gym memberships and physical fitness classes. In Darmstadt and Gernsheim, we furthermore run a company sports program that currently features 28 different activities such as tennis, volleyball, strength training, triathlon, yoga, and bouldering.
Special ergonomics programs
In an effort to improve our workplace, we regularly assess the ergonomics of individual workstations, implementing appropriate measures as required. Our workers also receive training on occupational ergonomics tailored to specific areas, whether manufacturing, office work or the laboratory. Moreover, we offer people at many sites the option of participating in special ergonomics training such as the Industrial Athlete Program in the United States, which helps employees improve their physical and general well-being.
Training in mobile gyms
In 2019, we expanded our Training Island project, which centers around mobile gyms located in renovated buses. With access to state-of-the-art equipment and professional trainers, participants can work out close to their office twice a week for 12 minutes. The program was designed in particular to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and to motivate employees to exercise. In addition to working out, participants can also access individual consultation on topics such as food and nutrition, while start and end screenings make personal successes visible. In 2019, 920 employees made use of this opportunity.
Weight Watchers At Work for Shift Employees
From April to July 2019, 21 Life Science and Performance Materials shift workers in Darmstadt and Gernsheim had the opportunity to take part in the Weight Watchers At Work for Shift Employees program. Weight Watchers designed this new approach in partnership with our Health Management unit and has not yet conducted the program at any other company. Aimed at employees with a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 25, which is considered overweight, a Weight Watchers coach provided in-depth instruction on making healthy nutritional choices and leading a more active lifestyle. The course focused particularly on living and coping with shift work, with the schedule planned around the participants’ shifts. On average, workers lost seven kilograms during the program.
Examinations and support for our employees
Our Physical Ability Test and Health Preservation process allows us to ensure that all employees meet the health requirements for their particular tasks. Due to new statutory requirements, our Site Medical Center is working with our Legal department and the Works Council to develop a new physical aptitude examination.
Our Travel Health & Medical Advisory Service assists employees who spend a lot of time abroad on company business, providing them with recommendations on necessary vaccinations and advice on hygiene risks.